New Jersey expands eligibility for free breakfast and lunch at school

Another 26,000 New Jersey students will be eligible for free school breakfast and lunch starting next year under a bill that Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Friday.

The law, called the Working Class Families Hunger Act, seeks to help more children from low- and middle-income families avoid hunger. The legislation slightly expands eligible tax brackets for the state’s current free or reduced meal program.

Every New Jersey school will also be required to offer a free or reduced breakfast and lunch program, regardless of the number of eligible students in the school.

State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, the main sponsor of the measure, noted that the law comes on the heels of a federal program providing free school lunches during the pandemic. Expires in June. He also noted the effects of inflation on low- and middle-income families.

“We all understand how important a healthy breakfast and lunch is to everyone and how it affects their ability to succeed,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).

He stressed that the legislation is a step towards helping all struggling families, including those who have faced increased food insecurity during the pandemic.

according to State and federal data. In 2019, more than 762,500 residents, including 192,580 children, reported that they could not afford balanced meals or skip meals due to financial constraints or concerns about running out of food supplies.

More than 395,000 children received free or reduced price breakfast and lunch at school between 2019 and 2020.

before invoice (A2368After it was signed into law, the program capped for families who were at 185% of the federal poverty level. Now, eligibility for families increases 200% from that level, which translates to families with three children earning up to $46,060. For families with two children, the lump-sum income would be $36,620.

The program will cost approximately $19 million annually and will be implemented starting in the 2023-2024 academic year.

She also joined with Governor Teresa Ruiz (Democrat of Essex), who lowered the cost of the program, saying that the amount of food that schools throw away was “enough to cover every child for a free breakfast and lunch.”

Murphy signed the second measure (A2365) Require school officials to educate parents about expanded meal programs through public awareness campaigns and promotional materials.

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